The State Government has approached the Kerala High Court against the Additional Sessions Court I, Trivandrum order dismissing the culpable homicide charges against IAS Officer Sriram Venkitaraman and his friend, Wafa Firoz, in the alleged drunk driving case related to the death of journalist K.M. Basheer in 2019.
The Sessions Court, while dropping the charges under Section 304 which provides punishment for culpable homicide and Section 201, which penalizes causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information, last month had however maintained that the other charges under Sections 304 A (causing death by negligence) and 279 (rash and negligent driving) of the IPC and Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act would stand. Venkitaraman had argued that there was no evidence regarding him having driven the vehicle in a drunken state.
In the Criminal Revision Petition filed through the Additional Public Prosecutor, it has been averred that the statements of the witnesses had revealed that the accused was in an inebriated state at the time of the incident, and had been reluctant to give his blood sample with a view to destroy the evidence, and that he had made all effort in this regard to delay treatment when he was taken to the General Hospital on the day of the accident.
The Prosecution has also said that the doctor at the General Hospital had asked the accused to consult a surgeon and had referred him to Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, however, he disregarded the same and went to KIMS Hospital Thiruvananthapuram without informing the police. It has also averred that the accused "purposely delayed" collection of his blood sample to dilute alcohol content in his blood, and the Court below had failed to consider the same.
"The case on hand, statements of witnesses, in unequivocal terms stated that the 1st accused was in an inebriated state after consuming the alcohol. He, being a qualified doctor, and a Civil Servant, is well aware of the natural consequences. If that be so, if the act is done with knowledge of the dangerous consequences which are likely to follow and if death is caused, then not only that punishment is for the act but also for the resulting homicide, and case may fall under Section 304 IPC. Knowledge is awareness on the part of the person concerned of the consequences of his act of omission or commission, indicating his state of mind. There may be knowledge of likely consequences without any intention. Hence, Curt below ought to have proceeded with the trial of the accused under Section 304 IPC", the petition states.
The State has also argued the court below had exceeded its jurisdiction in exercise of its power of discharge and had acted beyond the scope of Section 227 Cr.P.C.
In 2019, a journalist K.M. Basheer was allegedly killed when a vehicle driven by Venkitaraman, ran over him at high speed, at Museum Junction in Thiruvananthapuram District of Kerala. It was alleged that Venkitaraman, who was accompanied by Firoz, was in an inebriated state, which led to the accident.
The doctors are said to have confirmed his inebriated state, however, later it was disclosed that there was an omission to conduct his blood test. The sample is said to have been collected only ten hours after the incident.
While Venkitaraman was suspended from service immediately following the incident, he was later reinstated as the District Collector of Alappuzha. It was pursuant to several protests that he was later removed from the post, and is presently the General Manager of SupplyCo.
In August 2022, a plea had been moved in the Kerala High Court by the brother of the deceased journalist seeking a CBI probe into the accident.
Case Title: State of Kerala v. Sreeram Venkitaraman